Faith is a learned response
"IF ONLY I HAD MORE FAITH!" On hindsight we might sometimes come to that conclusion. However, faith is not so much an issue of “more” but of learning to respond better. Faith is a learned response.
When Abraham left Haran in response to God’s call (Gen 12:1-3), it was a big step of faith. He left, “not knowing where he was going”. (Hebrews 11:8).
However, when he arrived in Egypt, his faith seemed amiss when Pharaoh lusted after his wife. When he presented Sarah as his sister, self-preservation seemed his motive, at the expense of his wife (hardly our hero of faith!). God intervened, speaking to Pharaoh in a dream, and ended the matter. In this faith lesson for Abraham, he did not fail the test because he had some help.
God appeared to him again in Genesis 15 to reiterate His promise. Abraham by this time had reasoned with himself: since God had not given him a son, Eliezer his servant was the heir through whom His promise would be fulfilled. Again, God nullified his plan and promised a son. It was at this point that God instructed Abraham to cut a blood covenant, demonstrating how serious He was with His promise. In this faith lesson, Abraham had to learn that God’s ways were not his ways.
Then Sarah had her own plan to realise the promise. Since she was childless, she insisted her husband made bed with her maid in order to have a child. Abraham complied but the birth of Ishmael led to turmoil in the household. The faith lesson for Abraham here is this: you may have learned not to devise your own plans to realise God’s promise, but it is harder for you when your wife has not.
God had to finally send a clear message: a son from Abraham and Sarah was the way He would fulfil His promise. The birth of Isaac was the culmination of Abraham’s long journey of learning to be better at believing God. Even then the journey was not complete: God asked him to sacrifice Isaac, the only one through whom the promise could be fulfilled. But it appears that he still had lessons to learn about faith: he reasoned that God would raise Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:19). Literally God did not, but figuratively He did.
We know faith comes by hearing God’s word (Romans 10:17). But we may need a few lessons before that word becomes a reality.
The Rev Dr Wee Boon Hup is the President of Trinity Annual Conference.
“We know faith comes by hearing God’s word (Romans 10:17). But we may need a few lessons before that word becomes a reality.”